Many people today are concerned about the quality of our education systems. They are concerned where their country ranks compared to others on standardized tests, and they want to make sure that young people have learned enough math and science to compete in our increasingly technological world. But I think there is one kind of education that is rarely mentioned, but it is the most important of all: character education
But you might ask, “Isn’t that the job of parents or religions?” Well, yes, those are both important to helping to form good character, but we need a kind of character education that goes beyond that. Parents only have influence when their children are very young, and religion has become largely separated from everyday life for most people. And, religions and parenting styles can differ greatly on the values that they hold to be most important.
Instead, a form of character education that everyone can easily agree upon could help unite and heal our world. I recommend that the basis of this education be Hongik
. Directly translated, Hongik means “widely benefitting.” Put simply, Hongik can be summarized in this simple code of conduct: Be friendly. Be helpful.
No complicated philosophy or system of morals is needed if we want to create a better world. Much of the conflict we see today, from interpersonal relationships to international affairs, is rooted in people’s inability to see beyond their own limited perspective. They can only see what they themselves want and need, so other people become like enemies and life becomes about succeeding above and beyond everyone else. This is a tragic, heartbreaking way to live, and we see a great deal of loneliness
and depression because of it.
On the other hand, people naturally feel more Hongik
when we strip away our limited perspectives or sense of division and lack. Hongik a characteristic of our true nature. Character education, rather than instilling or adding ideas, can be a removal of our programming so that we become more of who we really are deep down.
Learning to be more friendly
and helpful engages and strengthens this part of us. If we can simply educate people to be more friendly and helpful, then, they will naturally become less self-centered and less self-promotional, and day-to-day life will become much more beautiful.
You might think, though, “Oh, I am friendly. I have lots of friends.” It’s great to have some close friends, but I’m not talking about one’s social life; I’m suggesting we learn to be friendly in everything we do and everywhere we go. Imagine how you might change if, anytime you go out into the world, you saw all the people around you as your friend. You would become much more than just a polite person, and you would be able to truly connect on a heart level with whomever comes your way. To view another person as a friend
is to view them as a person that truly matters, and that could make all the difference in that person’s life.
Secondly, we can make helping others a priority. Really, helping others is just friendship in action. If a friend asked a favor of you, you would help them if you can, right? This does not mean that we must be self-sacrificial or spend all our spare time performing charitable deeds. Instead, it is just a matter of reaching out and supporting others in need. Sometimes, you will be able help someone directly, and other times you can help them find help or you can offer a much-needed encouraging word.
The form of character education I am suggesting here is just a matter of helping people relearn what it means to be a member of a society. We form societies for the sake of mutual protection and support, but in our diverse, individualistic societies
people often loose sight of that. Ultimately, we are all stronger if we lift each other up, so developing the values of friendliness and helpfulness will uplift the entire society.
Good character education of this sort begins with adult education. Children naturally want to be friendly and helpful to others, and they will tend to mimic whatever they see adults doing. So, let’s retrain our brains
so that being friendly and helpful comes naturally in everything we do in life. Can you imagine how much better the world could be as a result?